Magazine Article | June 22, 2006

Imaging, Workflow Reduce Editorial Cycle Times By 92%

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By replacing paper-based editorial processing systems with a document management

system, this publisher improved one of its cycle times from 60 days to 5 days.

Integrated Solutions, July 2006

H.W. Wilson is a publisher of reference materials and databases primarily for the library market. The company produces the Readers’ Guides To Periodical Literature, as well as other indexing and abstract publications, which are all available in print and on the Internet. H.W. Wilson’s existing processes were lengthy, paper-based, and open for errors. The company looked toward a document imaging solution to streamline its business.

With the old system, H.W. Wilson maintained multiple subscriptions to each publication it subscribed to so geographically dispersed departments would each have a copy to work with. The magazines would come into H.W. Wilson’s mailroom at a rate of 350 per day, where they’d be checked in, then manually routed throughout the company. The publisher’s 100 indexers reviewed the magazines’ articles and indexed them (i.e. note what categories the articles should be classified under) according to proprietary subject terms. The indexers typically assigned more than one subject category for each article, which they noted on a paper that was clipped on the starting page of the article — approximately 3,500 indexes were created each day. Once all of the appropriate indexers had seen the magazine, a data entry clerk keyed in the article information, including the title, the author of the article, the pagination (the  pages the article appears on in the specific publication), and the subjects noted on the clipped paper.

After the indexers were finished with their jobs (typically 45 days after receiving the materials), the hard copies of the magazines were mailed to H.W. Wilson’s abstracting and full-text conversion sites in Ireland and China, respectively. (The abstracting department creates a one- to two-paragraph summary of the article that is used in H.W. Wilson’s reference documents; the conversion is conducted by a third party vendor that converts the magazine text to HTML text for use with H.W. Wilson’s Web-based services.)

H.W. Wilson knew an imaging solution could improve these processes, so the company hired a consultant who had built a similar system for his company and contracted with a systems integrator, Imaging Solutions. The integrator worked with H.W. Wilson to develop a Web-based publishing workflow and document management system, starting with Plexus FloWare workflow running on a UNIX platform, on top of which the integrator wrote the central desktop control module called WorkCenter. The integrator also wrote scanning, indexing, and cropping modules using Kofax ImageControls. To select the document scanners, H.W. Wilson had to perform significant testing for its unique scanning requirements. “The needs for most scanners are nothing like our needs, I think,” says Cassandra Wilson, director of full-text and editorial systems for H.W. Wilson. “For instance, many imaging software programs automatically do black border removal, but because we’re scanning an entire magazine page for our customers, we need to keep the border if it is part of the page — such as an optical element or a picture. Also, our paper varies. A lot of it is glossy paper, and much of the pages we scan are thicker than manila envelopes.” After performing these tests, H.W. Wilson chose Böwe Bell + Howell Spectrum XF scanners, which met the publisher’s requirements.

With the imaging solution in place, scanner operators receive the magazines, cut the binding and remove any adhesive substances, and scan the magazines. It takes approximately 20 minutes to scan each magazine, with the majority of the time being devoted to verifying the pagination on the scanned images (it must be exactly what the original publisher has). The workflow software then automatically assigns the work to queues for indexing. Indexers log into the WorkCenter system and get a list of work customized to their areas of expertise. As the indexers read the articles from the images, they choose subject headings for each article from a list. While the indexers are doing their work, the magazine images have also been sent to the abstraction and conversion sites electronically.

With the imaging solution, H.W. Wilson’s indexing turnaround time improved from 45 days to 10 days, and the ability to create a full-text product was reduced from 60 days to 5 days. The publisher was able to reduce headcount from 180 to approximately 150. Finally, because electronic versions of the magazines are created, H.W. Wilson cancelled its duplicate and triplicate magazine subscriptions — some of which cost thousands of dollars a year.